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U.S. scrambles to clear egg exports to bird flu-hit Korea

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. officers are urgently in search of an settlement with South Korea that may permit imports of American eggs so farmers can money in on a scarcity brought on by the Asian nation’s worst-ever outbreak of bird flu.

South Korea banned imports of U.S. desk eggs final yr after the United States grappled with its personal bout of bird flu.

If a brand new settlement is reached, U.S. shipments might deliver some aid to South Koreans who’ve confronted hovering egg costs and rationing because the outbreak there started final month.

The egg shipments additionally would assist U.S. farmers deal with an oversupply that’s miserable costs.

About 26 million birds, greater than 1 / 4 of South Korea’s poultry inventory, have been culled to management the outbreak, and a lot of the birds have been egg-laying hens.

The alternative to revenue by filling the ensuing shortfall with U.S. eggs has despatched brokers and merchants into overdrive.

Strains of bird flu, which might be unfold by wild birds, have been detected throughout Asia and in Europe in current weeks. Two individuals in China and one individual in Hong Kong have died within the outbreaks.

The United States might attain settlement to resume commerce with South Korea as early as subsequent week, stated Mark Perigen, nationwide supervisor for shell eggs for a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Everybody’s working hard to get it done,” Perigen stated in an interview on Friday, including that USDA staff had labored throughout vacation holidays on the difficulty.

“They’re desperate for eggs over there, and the government realizes that,” Perigen stated.

South Korea’s embassy in Washington didn’t instantly reply to a telephone message looking for remark.

Glenn Hickman, chief government of Hickman’s Eggs in Arizona, has acquired calls from brokers looking for U.S. eggs to ship to South Korea.

“Everybody in Korea who needs eggs has Googled everybody in the world who might have eggs,” Hickman stated.

“We’re getting calls from brokers who have no idea even the right questions to ask us,” he added. “It’s just somebody who knows how to freight stuff from the U.S. to Korea.”

With no settlement but between the 2 nations, Hickman is asking staff to take contact info for the potential clients.

United States Egg Marketers, a cooperative of farmers that was established to export eggs, has acquired “numerous inquiries about this already, including from people who have never exported anything in their lives,” stated Eka Inall, the group’s president.

“Our phone is blowing up, our email is blowing up,” she stated.

Last yr, U.S. meals corporations imported eggs from Europe after bird flu ravaged home hen flocks and despatched egg costs to document highs.

Since then, U.S. costs have tumbled as farmers have ramped up manufacturing.

The United States produced 7.44 billion desk eggs in November, up 11.5 % from a yr earlier, and there have been 312 million hens laying desk eggs on Dec. 1, up eight % from a yr earlier than, in accordance to USDA.

On Dec. 26, the typical worth for a dozen giant white U.S. eggs was $1.17, down from a excessive of $2.88 in August 2015, in accordance to market knowledge agency Urner Barry.

“Current conditions in the U.S. are definitely a motivating factor to get this thing done,” Brian Moscogiuri, an Urner Barry analyst, stated about U.S. efforts to ship eggs to South Korea.

In South Korea, the typical retail worth for 30 eggs has risen almost 25 % to 6,781 gained ($5.68) because the outbreak started on Nov. 18. That is the very best worth in additional than three years, in accordance to state-run Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp.

If South Korea begins importing U.S. eggs, its residents may have to modify to a unique look of the meals staple.

Jim Sumner, president of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council, stated many Koreans choose brown coloured eggs, whereas the United States principally produces white eggs.

“As they say, beggars can’t be choosers,” he stated.

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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